If you or your community group are interested in helping with the Independence Day Community Picnic, please complete and submit this Interest Form.  

Volunteer Role Interested In (click all that apply)

Get eggs-cited about all the spring family events!

Registration Going on Now!

Saturday, April 1 • Doggieland Egg Hunt

8:30-8:40am • The Preserve of Highland Park

Sound off! Your dog will help sniff out eggs that are filled with treats special for pups!

One handler age 18 or older per dog. All dogs must remain on-leash for the entire event, be at least 4 months old to participate, and wearing current rabies tags.

This event is free however registration is recommended to receive detailed information.

Dog Hunt

Saturday, April 1 • Wonderland Egg Hunt

9-9:40am • The Preserve of Highland Park

Don’t be late for this Very Important Date! Featuring scenes and characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and over 60,000 plastic eggs filled with treats, the Wonderland Egg Hunt is family fun for children and their parents. 

This event for families is free however registration is encouraged to receive detailed information.

  • 9-9:10 am | Ages 1-2
  • 9:15-9:25 am | Ages 3-5
  • 9:30-9:40 am | Ages 6-9
Egg Hunt

Thank you to our sponsor: Rosen Orthodontics

Saturday, April 1 • Mad Hatter Tea Party

10:30-11:45am • Highand Park Country Club

Hop through our Wonderland Storywalk and photo stations as you make your way to the house of the March Hare where you will find a continental breakfast with Highland Park’s most curious crew! A light breakfast and a photo opportunity with the White Rabbit are included for all registrants, with a special take away for registered children.

Ages 2 and higher (under 2 need not register)

Saturday, April 1 • Geocache & Glow Egg Hunt

6-7:30pm • Heller Nature Center

Set out on a geocache hunt for glowing eggs by using our hand-held GPS. Grab your family or friends for a night of glow-in-the-dark, finding clues and ending with prizes!

Ages 6-Adult

All participants, including children and adults, must register for the program. Program entirely outdoors.


Sunday, April 2 • Underwater Eggstravaganza

1-3pm • Recreation Center of Highland Park

Search and swim for eggs at the indoor pool! Egg hunters will be divided into age groups and are encouraged to stay after for open swim (included with enrollment). Coast Guard-approved flotation devices may be used.

All Ages!

“Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete, and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.”

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, track and field athlete

This summer, girls in grades 3–6 have a unique opportunity to gain confidence, make friends, and get stronger both physically and mentally at one of the best sports camps in Illinois. And it’s right in your backyard.

Girls Play Strong, at the Park District of Highland Park, is a one-of-a-kind camp that teaches everything you would expect: fundamentals, rules, skills, and techniques for a wide variety of

sports. And while everyone is having fun playing soccer, volleyball, tennis, softball, and basketball (along with some non-traditional sports), the counselors are also instilling life lessons that last well past the end of summer.

“Our motto is “Embrace Your Strength,” said Recreation Supervisor Stephanie Sylvester, and when you talk with her about Girls Play Strong be prepared for how serious she is about having turned what was a simple summer sports camp into something that resonates with girls all year.

“I focused on girls in grades 3–6 because that’s the time they are developing leadership skills,” said Sylvester, “and I wanted the Park District to be in the forefront of building strong, powerful, confident women.”

So in addition to all of the health benefits of playing outdoors and gaining physical strength, the girls learn good sportsmanship, the value of teamwork, and empathy. Critical life skills. They are also taught about how important it is to give back. To contribute to our community by being a part of events throughout the year, including last year’s Thanksgiving Food Drive for At-Risk Kids.

But what about just having fun? No problem! Campers go swimming once each week at Hidden Cove AquaPark or the beautiful Rosewood Beach. They go canoeing, play flag football, learn archery, and take a whack at pickleball—America’s fastest-growing sport! Each camp session includes weekly trips to great local adventure and entertainment venues like Action Territory and Main Event, and pro sporting events like the Chicago Dogs.

Having fun also becomes inspirational when girls go to a Chicago Sky game and see a whole court full of empowered women athletes. The experience is awesome.

Make lasting friendships, build confidence, gain leadership skills, and learn to Play Strong. Does this camp sound like it’s right for the girls in your life? We bet it does!

Congratulations to our gymnastics team that competed on Saturday, March 4 in Schaumburg at the Spring Into Gymnastics Meet.  In the Level 3: 11-year-old division for the All-Around, Clara Rozenberg was awarded 4th place, Lena Whittman placed 3rd and Olivia Rogic was awarded 1st place.  In the Level 3: 12-year-old division for the All-Around award, Kaylee Lynch placed 3rd and Noa Schwab came in 1st place.

Lena Whittman, Clara Rozenberg, Kaylee Lynch, Noa Schwab, Olivia Rogic
Olivia Rogic & Noa Schwab – All-Around Champions

One of the most beautiful places to hold your next special event is close to home, yet a world away. The Prairie Room, at Heller Nature Center, looks out over a 97-acre landscape of a beautiful oak-hickory forest and local wildlife. It offers a peaceful, serene space that’s perfect for birthday parties, reunions, bar mitzvahs, and weddings. Off-site corporate roundtables, monthly club gatherings, workshops, seminars, and presentations are popular here in this secluded atmosphere, where taking a break from the action includes a refreshing walk in the woods on three miles of trails—something a hotel conference room just can’t match.

The Prairie Room is one of the larger venues available in the area, able to accommodate up to 100 people. Tables and chairs can be set up in a wide variety of configurations, audiovisual equipment is available at no extra charge, and use of the kitchen is included. Rental applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The unique setting of the Nature Center has made it the go-to place for residents and businesses in and around Highland Park for many years. “You won’t find a place like Heller in most of our neighboring towns,” said Debbie Pierce, District Wide Rental Manager, “and that makes it especially attractive to people who want to host a one-of-a-kind event.”

In addition to the Prairie Room, Heller Nature Center has another enticing feature for groups of up to 25 people: The Fire Ring. It’s outdoors (of course) and is perfect for campfire fun in spring, summer, and fall. Wood and a lighter are provided, along with a water tank. Cooking over the fire is not allowed, but roasting marshmallows is encouraged! Scout troops love it. Girls’ Night Out is unlike any other. Family reunions around a fire get even warmer and more memorable. The Fire Ring is available as a separate rental, or as an extra-special add-on to any Prairie Room rental.

Guests can also enjoy our self-guided StoryTrail and WanderWoods free play natural area designed to nurture a child’s sense of wonder and discovery. Nestled in the trees and solitude, children can climb a tree house, create in a mud kitchen, experiment with ramps and much more. Let the creativity and messiness begin. 

Want to add a little adventure to your private event? Our one-of-a-kind Teams Course is made up of a series of thought-provoking ground-level puzzles, challenges and obstacles, each one having a specific set of tasks and an end goal that can only be accomplished by all members working as a cohesive group. Throughout the program our experienced facilitators lead group discussions on the insights and skills learned to help the team progress further along the course and integrate new ideas into their daily lives all in a safe and private environment.

Our friendly staff is ready, willing, able, and happy to assist with coordinating your event, any day of the week. To reserve a date for your next very special celebration or meeting, contact Debbie Pierce at 847.579.4047 or email dpierce@pdhp.org.  For more information about our teams course, contact Mark Bryant at mbryant@pdhp.org, 847.579.4184.

Go Green

Heller Nature Center and the Park District of Highland Park support green initiatives and encourage our renters to consider ways in which to make their events more sustainable! If you are looking for ideas, download our list of Sustainable Events Suggestions.

Updates from the February Park Board Meetings

February 1: Special Meeting of the Park Board

The public hearing for the proposed Budget and Appropriation Ordinance for the Fiscal Year beginning January 1, 2023 and ending December 31, 2023 for the Park District of Highland Park was held. No members of the public provided comment on the proposed 2023 Budget.

The Park Board of Commissioners approved the Microsoft Windows Server 2022 Licenses, the Centennial Ice Arena Water Heaters Bid, the Centennial Ice Arena Landscaping Bid, the 2023 Moroney Park Improvements Poured-in-Place Safety Surfacing Bid, the 2023 Moroney Park Improvements General Playground Construction Bid, the Gewalt Hamilton Associates Proposal for Compton Avenue Trail Connection Design, Resolution 2023-01: Authorizing a Contract for Procurement of Playground Equipment, allowing the Executive Director to enter into a 5-year lease term with EZ-GO for 65 lithium-ion battery-operated golf carts and 1 gas-operated beverage cart for a 5-year total not to exceed $538,901.70 and to enter into a 5-year lease term with EZ-GO for Alternate A (GPS System) in the amount of $165,789, the 2023 Budget and 2023 Budget and Appropriation Ordinance (2023-01) for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2023.

February 7: Special Meeting of the Park Board

The Park Board of Commissioners went into closed session pursuant to the following sections of the Open Meeting Act: Section 2(c)5 – the purchase or lease of real estate including discussion on whether a certain parcel of property should be acquired; Section 2(c)6 – the setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the District.

February 8: Workshop Meeting of the Park Board

Staff provided construction project updates for Fink Park Athletic Field Development and the Centennial Ice Arena Rink Floor Replacement and the Facility and Site Renovations.

The Park Board of Commissioners approved the Illinois Mutual Retirement Fund (IMRF) Authorized Agent Appointment to Larry M. Carr and the Supporting Resolution.

Staff reviewed the 2022 and 2023 membership efforts to increase fitness participation at the Recreation Center of Highland Park.

February 14: Finance Committee Meeting

Staff reviewed the preliminary Cost Center results for 2022, Resolution 2023-03 Authorizing and Increase in the Budgeted Year-End Fund Transfer Amounts, and Ordinance 2023-02 Authorizing and Providing for the Conveyance or Sale of Surplus Personal Property.

Staff also reviewed the bid openings for the 2023 Deer Creek Racquet Club Concrete and Masonry Repairs and the 2023 Routine Grounds Maintenance Routes.

February 22: Regular Meeting of the Park Board

The Park Board of Commissioners approved Resolution #2023-02: Authorizing an Increase in the Budgeted Year-End Fund Transfer Amounts, Ordinance #2023-02: Authorizing and Providing for the Conveyance or Sale of Surplus Personal Property, 2023 Deer Creek Racquet Club Concrete and Masonry Repairs bid, the 2023 Routine Grounds Maintenance – North Route bid, the 2023 Routine Grounds Maintenance – South Route bid, the Rejection of the 2023 Routine Grounds Maintenance – Electric Route bid, the Changes to Personnel Policy #2.8 Definitions “Introductory Employees”, the Changes to Personnel Policy #3.2 Equal Employment Opportunity, the Changes to Personnel Policy #4.10 Performance Evaluations, the Changes to Personnel Policy #6.2 Fleet Safety, the Changes to Personnel Policy #6.14.2 / #6.15.2 Reimbursement During Business Travel, Personnel Policy #6.17 and #6.17 Nursing Mothers, the Changes to Personnel Policy #8.3 Sick Time, the Changes to Personnel Policy #8.3 / #8.5 Bereavement, and the Changes to Personnel Policy #10.3 Illinois Victims’ Economic and Safety Act (VESSA).  

Governor JB Pritzker, along with state and local leaders and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), today announced that the Park District of Highland Park was one of 118 park and recreation agencies throughout the State to receive an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant. The Park District of Highland Park was awarded a $600,000 grant to fund a portion of a Sunset Woods Park revitalization project, including the installation of a rain garden with native plantings and an interpretive sign, a new game area, the replacement and relocation of the 16-year-old basketball court to create a multi-use sports court, the replacement and relocation of the 21-year-old skate park, and a new wheel friendly plaza that creates a space for all ages and wheel activities. Sunset Woods Park is a 34-acre community park in downtown Highland Park that serves all residents. The Sunset Woods Revitalization Project seeks to enhance roughly 9 acres of the park by implementing initiatives from the park’s master plan.

The OSLAD grant program was designed to help communities fund land acquisition and development for parks and outdoor recreation projects.  Established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1986, OSLAD is a cost-sharing program between state and local governments that has become one of Illinois’ most popular grant programs. Since its establishment, OSLAD has awarded over $530 million for park projects throughout Illinois (including the awards announced today).  OSLAD grants typically provide up to 50% of funding for a project – excluding economically distressed communities where 100% of project costs have been covered. The other 50% is supplied by matching funds from the project’s local government agency.

“We are thrilled to be awarded the OSLAD grant to allow us to invest in Sunset Woods Park, our community’s central downtown park,” said Brian Romes, executive director for the Park District of Highland Park. “The Park District heard from many residents through the Sunset Woods Master Planning effort, and we are grateful for the support from the OSLAD grant program to be able to act on initiatives from that plan. The Park District is excited to begin engaging the community through the design process.”

Kathryn Lentz leads a double life. The wild one will be on display at Heller Nature Center in March and April.

It started when she brought home a stray dog. And then another. And another. Unfortunately, she learned, each already had a home. Her own first dog arrived when she was seven, and that began a life-long journey of caring for pets, rescuing animals, writing a popular series of children’s books, and making stunning photographs of animals in the wild. For the upcoming exhibit in the Prairie Room, Kathryn has curated a selection of 40 photos from the thousands in her portfolio that she has made over the last seventeen years.

Lentz has a background in art that clearly shows in her work. The photos are beautifully crafted—from the subject to the composition and lighting. These are thoughtful images, each with a story that draws you in, and invites you to spend time looking closely. Wildlife photography comes with a unique set of challenges. Working outdoors is one. Subjects who are free spirits is certainly another—there’s no saying “move a bit to the left, love”—so quickly assessing the right place to be at exactly the right moment is a critical skill learned the hard way. “I had a wonderful instructor who impressed upon us the importance of carefully composing the scene before clicking the shutter,” says Lentz, “And of course we were using film, which was expensive, so I learned not to waste it.” Even so, like most serious photographers, she would come back from a road trip to National Parks with thousands of images. A couple of quotes from Ansel Adams are evident in her work: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” And one that iPhone camera users should memorize: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  Photography is, after all, art.

The exhibit at Heller features images that can be appreciated by all ages, so be sure to bring your kids and grandkids. If you’re a smartphone camera enthusiast, an amateur photographer, or a working pro there is much that will inspire you to get outdoors and make your own photos. Lucky for you there are woods and trails throughout the Park District where you can find plenty of interesting, and sometimes unusual, animals to photograph.

As an extra treat for kids and families, some of Kathryn’s children’s books (created on the milder side of her life) will be in the Nature Center. Get acquainted with the animals in her stories and download some free coloring pages at kathrynlentz.com. Her photography can be seen on Facebook at Kathryn Lentz Author.

Heller Nature Center, 2821 Ridge Road, is open Tuesdays from 11:30am–5pm; Wednesday–Friday from 10:30am–5pm; and Saturdays from 9am–3pm. We’re closed on Sundays and Mondays. Call us for more information: 847-433-6901.

City, Park District partner to host community events and activities from morning to night

Highland Park, Illinois – The City of Highland Park (City) and the Park District of Highland Park (Park District) announce plans for the community to gather on July 4, 2023. The City and Park District are working collaboratively to develop events and activities using a trauma-informed approach with a goal of balancing the diverse needs that have emerged in the wake of the Highland Park shooting. The theme, “We are Highland Park,” focuses on who we are as a community. The day’s events will be flexible and structured to allow community members the opportunity to participate in the way that is most comfortable and meaningful for them.

“The events planned for July 4, 2023, will focus on our community,” said Mayor Nancy Rotering. “We know that the day will be filled with emotion as we mark the one-year remembrance of the Highland Park shooting. We have carefully planned events and activities that will allow our community the time and space to remember the seven individuals who were taken from us too soon, opportunities to gather and connect, and provide us with the chance to celebrate Independence Day together as we create new traditions and memories.”

The day will begin at 10:00 AM with a remembrance ceremony at City Hall. The ceremony will include a performance by the Highland Park Strings, remarks by Mayor Nancy Rotering and interfaith clergy, and a moment of silence at 10:14 AM, when the first shots were fired on July 4, 2022. Live Spanish and American Sign Language interpretation will be available, and interpretation in other languages, including Russian, will be available upon request. The remembrance ceremony will be live-streamed on the City’s Facebook page and YouTube channel; the recording will be made available on the City’s website after the holiday.

A community walk will begin at 11 AM, following the 2022 parade route. The walk is a reminder of our beloved community tradition and symbolizes the reclaiming of our town as we build resiliency together. The community walk will step off from City Hall (1707 St. Johns Avenue) and progress north on St. Johns Avenue before turning west on Central Avenue, ending at Sunset Woods Park (1801 Sunset Road.) The community walk will not be a parade and will not include floats or performers.  It is intended to be an opportunity for active participation as one Highland Park and does not include viewing.  

Community members will be encouraged to register in advance to participate in the walk. Further details regarding the registration process will be available at cityhpil.com/july4 later this spring. Individuals who would like to participate in the community walk but who are unable to walk the full route (just under one mile) are invited to contact the City Manager’s Office at 847.926.1000 / cityhp@cityhpil.com. The City is exploring transportation options for community members who need assistance, including seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Beginning at 11:30 AM, the Independence Day Community Picnic at Sunset Woods Park will bring together community members of all ages to enjoy live performances, food, and family-friendly games and activities.

“The picnic is an opportunity for families, friends, and neighbors to come together for a relaxing afternoon to enjoy each other’s company and our community, while also keeping the tradition of celebrating our country’s independence. We are pleased to present activities for people of all ages and abilities.” said Terry Grossberg, president of the Park Board.

In the evening, community members will enjoy entertainment at Wolters Field featuring live music and ice cream novelties, closing with a custom drone show. In consideration of concerns regarding the noise of fireworks and the City’s push for more sustainable alternatives, the annual fireworks display will not be held. The Bitter Jester Music Festival, which traditionally culminates with its grand finale concert on the Fourth of July ahead of the fireworks display, will be held as part of the Taste of Highland Park weekend at The Lot in Downtown Highland Park on Sunday, June 25, 2023.

The planning process has been informed by conversations and feedback with victims’ families and individuals who were injured, as well as input from community members, elected officials, and staff, many of whom attended the parade. Cognizant that individuals build resiliency in their own time and in line with guidance from the Department of Justice, community members are encouraged to “opt-in” to the activities that are most comfortable for them. These multiple opportunities for the community to gather will give individuals the option to choose how best to engage; the City and Park District encourage all community members to be understanding of neighbors who may have a different comfort level.

Information regarding July 4, 2023 activities will be shared by both the City and Park District as planning continues. Updates from the City are available at www.cityhpil.com, and updates from the Park District are available at www.pdhp.org. Individuals are welcome to share their feedback via email to the City at cityhp@cityhpil.com.


The City and Park District have prepared the below Q&A to address community questions regarding the activities planned for July 4, 2023. An updated Q&A will be available on the City website as more details are finalized and available. If you have a question that is not answered below, please email us at cityhp@cityhpil.com.

How will community members participate in the remembrance ceremony?

The remembrance ceremony will include a short program with a moment of silence, remarks, and music. Following this set program, attendees will participate in a community walk along the 2022 planned parade route (north on St. Johns, west on Central to Sunset Woods Park.)

I am interested in planning a large-scale activity, such as a block party, rally, or march, for July 4, 2023. How do I approach this?

In line with prior years, the City and Park District will not be approving special event permits for Tuesday, July 4, 2023, given the number of planned government-sponsored events.

I am not comfortable attending large gatherings. How can I be involved?

The City and Park District understand that not all community members who would like to be part of these activities will feel comfortable attending a large gathering. The remembrance ceremony will be livestreamed on the City’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. After the holiday, the video will be posted to the City’s website. The City and Park District will explore other opportunities for virtual engagement.

May I ride a bike or drive my car in the community walk?

For the safety of all participants, the community walk is intended for pedestrians only. Parents may bring strollers or wagons for small children. Vehicles and bicycles will not be permitted. The City is exploring transportation options for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and others who would like to participate but are not able to walk the full length of the route. To request transportation assistance along the community walk route, please contact the City Manager’s Office at 847.926.1000 or cityhp@cityhpil.com.

What performance opportunities are available?

Highland Park is home to many talented artists and musicians. To ensure an equitable approach, the City and Park District have already finalized performers for the events on July 4, 2023.

What support will be provided for individuals in need?

Emotional therapy services will be available during the remembrance ceremony at City Hall. ASL and Spanish translation interpreters will also be available. There will be a limited number of chairs for individuals who cannot stand. Please call the City Manager’s Office at 847.926.1000 to request reservation of a chair.

Why are individuals being asked to register to participate in the community walk?

Registering for the community walk will help the City to plan for anticipated crowd size. Participation in the event is free.  

Will my group or business be able to participate?

All community members, including businesses and nonprofit organizations, are invited to participate in the community walk following the remembrance ceremony. The walk will not include a pre-planned lineup, floats, or performers. No parade is planned for 2023. Viewing only is discouraged.

Will the Children’s Bike and Pet Parade occur?

Families are encouraged to participate in the community walk. Please note that due to the anticipated crowd size, the community walk will be limited to pedestrians (strollers and wagons permitted.) No separate bike and pet parade will take place. 

Will there be opportunities to help plan or volunteer at these events?

Yes, the Park District is seeking volunteers to assist with the Independence Day Community Picnic. Volunteers may help with pre-event planning, event setup/teardown and coordinating, implementing, and supervising games and activities. To volunteer, complete and submit this Volunteer Form.

Virtually every community has a leash law. In Highland Park, the law requires that dogs be kept on a leash on public property, including our parks. The law intends to protect the health and safety of the public and to protect your pet. A leash is commonly referred to as “Your Pet’s Lifeline” and protects your pet from harm and potentially harming other people or animals in the area. While you can train certain dogs to avoid the busy roads, stop and wait for their owner at corners, and even return to their side at command, there is always the chance that a dog could act impulsively. The safest way and legal way to walk your dog is on a leash.

Other Reasons to Always Use a Dog Leash

Become a Dog Park Member!

Dog Park Membership offers countless benefits for your dog. One of the most important benefits a dog park provides a dog is to exercise both his body and mind. In an open off-leash space, your dog has the chance to run around freely, chasing after balls and other dogs as much as his heart desires. He can socialize with humans and other dogs, which helps maintain healthy social skills. Like people, dogs are social creatures, and they enjoy being around their own kind. Your dog can practice his communication skills with other dogs and gives him practice reading other dogs. Practicing and mastering these skills helps your dog from developing fear or aggression problems around other dogs. This is especially true if you have a young dog that is eager to learn. And, not only is it fun for your four-legged friend, but it’s also fun for you! You can run around and exercise with your dog, practice off-leash training, talk to and bond with other dog owners, and enjoy the time watching your dog have the time of his life.

The Park District of Highland Park has three dog parks available to registered members:

Debbie Gottlieb Beitler Dog Park at Larry Fink Memorial Park – open year-round (701 Deer Creek Parkway)
A relaxed park-like atmosphere with two off-leash exercise areas, depending on the size of your dog.

Highland Park Golf Learning Center – open mid-December through mid-March* (2205 Skokie Valley Highway)
A large outdoor venue for your dog to run off some of that cabin fever energy.

Moraine Dog Beach – open mid-April through mid-November* (2501 Sheridan Road)
Moraine Dog Beach is scheduled to reopen this year with a new boardwalk and path leading down to the beach. Your dogs will soon be able to run in the sand and dip in the lake on those hot, sunny days.